Russia plans to expel UK diplomats in retaliation for Britain’s decision to kick out 23 Russians over Moscow’s alleged nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy on English soil, deepening the diplomatic crisis between London and Moscow.
Answering a reporter on Friday in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow will retaliate for Britain’s diplomatic expulsions. “We will, of course,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy, has so far only said publicly that Britain should discover the truth of what has happened.
Sergei Skripal, a former double agent and colonel in Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, and his daughter have been critically ill since March 4, when they were found unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury.
Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were allegedly attacked by a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military.
Britain plans to expel 23 Russian diplomats after an alleged chemical agent attack which London has blamed on Moscow.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision on Wednesday to expel 23 Russians has pushed Moscow’s relations with London to a post-Cold War low. In a sign of just how tense the relationship has become, British and Russian ministers have used openly insulting language over the alleged poisoning.
May also announced a range of economic and diplomatic measures, including a decision to cancel all high-level bilateral contacts with Moscow. She said no ministers or members of the royal family will attend the football World Cup in Russia.
Russia’s Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko said London was trying to divert attention from the difficulties it was having managing Britain’s exit from the European Union.
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to blame Russia for the nerve agent attack, insisting the British government must avoid “hasty judgments.”
Corbyn warned the prime minister on Thursday against “rushing way ahead of the evidence,” defying critics in his own party.
“This horrific event demands first of all the most thorough and painstaking criminal investigation, conducted by our police and security services,” he wrote in an article in the Guardian newspaper.—Agencies